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Everything in Its Place
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
KITCHENS & BATHS August/September 2018
home :: home & garden :: kitchen & bath

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A well-designed mudroom can transform a home.

A well-designed mudroom can transform a home.

If you’ve ever been in an old farmhouse, you know the concept of a mudroom is nothing new. Iowans have always recognized the importance of a place for everything and everything in its place. Inside the home was not the place for dirty shoes, dusty clothes, and work gear.

Over the years, that concept got lost. The average home offered no more than a coat closet and a dim hallway between an attached garage and the living space or just inside the back door.

But no more. The rest of the country seems to have recognized the mudroom as the practical, beautiful asset it was always meant to be.

A mudroom is not just another name for a back entry. “A back entry is typically just the entrance between the home and the garage,” says Woodharbor’s Cheryl Arganbright. “A mudroom offers space and organization.”

“In a mudroom, items tend to be more hidden for a clean, smooth look,” says Tina Noel of Moehl Millwork.

Sunderland’s Shelby Silvers says, “Mudrooms are utilized mostly for convenience—containing messes, good area for pets. And it’s a space that can be adapted easily to a family’s needs.”

Not only does a mudroom provide space for messy shoes and heavy coats, it can also transform the chaos of coming and going into a routine. According to Rob Walker of Beisser Lumber, “A well-designed mudroom can be a real hub for the whole family, providing a place for sports equipment and lockers for miscellaneous belongings and coats. It’s like an office for everyone at once.”

With families as busy as they are these days, a well-organized mudroom is crucial to everyone’s sanity. Arganbright explains, “In addition to lockers or some sort of individual storage, a mudroom can include a drop zone where those odds and ends get dropped—keys, purses, even a charging station. That way everything is right there the next time you leave the house.”

Sunderland Brothers’ Christy Hahn says, “The cabinets can be designed with chalkboard doors for use as a message center,” offering mental as well as physical organization options.

And using low-maintenance materials is a must. “Easy-to-clean surfaces, like Thermofoil slab-door cabinetry and tile floors, are important,” says Beisser’s Nancy Ruzicka. “A lot of dirt gets tracked in there.”

But all this practicality doesn’t have to be boring. Shelby Silvers of Sunderland Brothers says, “Mudrooms are a great area in the home to be creative and create a trendy, fun space while still being functional.”

Using repurposed items, natural materials, and a functional design help to personalize the space and still keep maintenance to a minimum. The room can also be designed to blend with the rest of your home’s style. “If you use cabinets in your mudroom, there are many door styles and finishes to choose from,” says Jennifer Sweet of Sunderland Brothers. “But you can use the same door style as that used throughout your home.”

Another feature of a great mudroom? It doesn’t have to be huge.

“The size will depend somewhat on a family’s needs,” explains Arganbright. “But it doesn’t have to be enormous. If it’s just a mudroom—no laundry facility or work space included—it could be as small as 6 or 7 feet by 10 feet.” If the mudroom will serve multiple functions, it may need to be slightly larger. Making efficient use of the space available is key.

Ruzicka says, “Our average mudroom is just 7 feet by 10 feet, with lockers, boot storage, and a seating area. If a homeowner doesn’t have a separate mudroom and wants to create one, they can usually incorporate space from an existing closet or back hall to come up with that much room.” She adds that maximizing the square footage by designing vertical storage with baskets and bins makes it possible to organize a lot of items in a small footprint.

“Hooks for coats or backpacks can make better use of tight spaces,” says Noel. “And adding counterspace for drop zones with storage above and below for electronic devices, keys, and mail will utilize a small space better.”

Sunderland Brothers’ Sweet says, “You can also incorporate shoe storage below a bench seat either with an open cabinet or with closed storage using doors or a drawer. And a wall cabinet above the bench can provide space to store seasonal items such as hats, gloves, and scarves.”

“The mudroom has become an important part of the home,” says Walker. “It’s not just for dropping off shoes and coats. It’s a laundry room, locker room, sewing room, craft room, office, charging station, pantry, pet room, or any combination of those.”

To create that multipurpose space, Hahn advises using a stacked washer and dryer and tall-cabinet storage.

Silvers suggests an existing back laundry room can easily be adapted to a more functional mudroom with some of the design changes mentioned already. “Benches and nooks, with lots of cubbies or storage, can turn a laundry room into a mudroom fairly easily. You can also add open shelving and some hooks for coats and keys.”

Arganbright agrees. “You don’t have to completely redo the room. For homeowners with a smaller budget or smaller space, consider just adding a bench with baskets underneath and coat hooks above. The key is to find ways to make it functional.”

Those old farmhouses exemplified the right idea—functional space matters. The modern mudroom has taken that idea and made it beautiful, too.

Have some fun!

Make your mudroom fun and functional with these features:

  • Cement deco tile
  • Rustic wood accents
  • Porcelain brick
  • Subway tile
  • Personalized cabinetry
  • Pet shower
  • Pet supply station
  • Open shelving
  • Floating shelves
  • Granite-topped seating
  • Additional freezer/refrigerator
  • Repurposed items for hooks and storage

Make Your Mudroom Work for You

Here are some design tips and ideas from our local professionals.

  • DON’T
    • Use high-maintenance materials
    • Choose very dark or very light flooring
    • Choose solid-color flooring
    • Use very dark or very light grout
    • Overdo the nooks and crannies
  • DO
    • Consider your needs, not just your wants
    • Remember your pets
    • Plan for wear and tear
    • Look at how doors will open, close
    • Choose easy-to-clean surfaces
    • Go with lighter finishes for cabinetry
    • Incorporate natural materials


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